In the first part of this guide, we talked about the most economical and smartest way I could devise to set up your side hustle, including the domain, email and telephone you will use to receive incoming inquiries, along with a little bit about building your brand through a logo. Now let’s get to the real work. You’re probably already using Microsoft Office or Google Docs — but before you invest in a lot of programs and apps that will clutter up your processes and desktop, you need to think about how the information and work will flow … because it doesn’t matter what you choose to use, if you don’t have a plan, you’re going to end up with chaos.
So here it is, the second installment in my no-nonsense guide to starting your dream business, and it’s all about controlling the flow. Including the big one: dealing with email.
1. Stop Searching and Get Synced
If you are going to take advantage of being connected, then you need to be consistently connected. The information you have on whatever device you are looking at should have the same information as all the other devices (and even your paper journal). By making sure that everything is synced, you minimize data entry tasks while reducing the time you spend trying to find the information, files and data you need to get work done.
The problem is getting everything to sync seamlessly. You need to capture data and information from many different devices and have those devices sync with no effort, in real time. And, you need to make sure your data is securely hosted with privacy maintained. How do you do all of that easily (and inexpensively)? Say it with me: Office 365.
Not only do you get to connect up to five devices per person at a very economical rate, but according to my go-to legal IT guy, Tony Sollars:
“With Office 365, you not only get Enterprise-grade security, ISO27001 certification and HIPAA compliance, but an agreement that your data belongs to you and nobody else. You also get e-discovery tools, O365 Groups and MS Teams making accessing and sharing information easy, secure and less expensive than if you configured it with onsite software and servers.”
Certainly be sure to scour the terms of service of any technology, service or app that houses the information entrusted to you for anything related to reviewing, sharing and especially owning the data, files and documents of your practice.
2. Stop Working in Email
Before we get to my system for processing your inbox, here are a few things you need to think about when it comes to the administration of email:
- Put a process in place to sort and manage email. If you don’t have a systematic way to process each message, you’re going to end up with an overflowing inbox. Think of your inbox like your kitchen sink. A transitory spot, not a place of permanent storage. Your inbox should never be the final destination of any particular email message.
- Stop responding immediately. Most people have email access on their person around the clock. (I hope you are not actually connected 24/7, but statistics indicate most people do sleep with their personal mobile device not far away.) This does not mean you are required to respond to email 24/7. In fact, I highly recommend that you don’t. If you do, you will set the expectation that you will always get back to them “right away” — making yourself crazy trying to live up to that expectation or, worse, not living up to it. We all know what happens when client expectations are not met.
- Don’t use multiple email addresses for business. Administration and maintenance time is built into every email you send and receive. Every additional email address you have adds extra administration time. Not only do you have to check all those different email inboxes, but you also have to maintain and update spam filters. Use only one email address for business and you will only have to maintain that one account and train one spam filter.
- Keep your domain email strictly for business. Don’t subscribe to every webzine, group site and listserv through your business account. Instead, it’s perfectly acceptable to use a Gmail account for those types of communications. Remember, every message your business domain email receives requires some type of administration — even if it’s just to delete it — and you don’t have that time to waste. Instead, collect anything not directly related to your practice in a different spot for access when you are not at work or, more technically, when you don’t need to get real work done.
To help you learn how to process email, here’s a quick-read explaining my system: “D-A-F-T Your Way to Organized!” Set aside 20 minutes or so when you won’t be interrupted and mull it over a bit before you give it a go. (The complete e-book is available here.)
3. Stop Trying to Remember It All
I found and began testing Bullet Journal in 2013. I had already learned from “Getting Things Done” author David Allen that I had to write stuff down, and I used a Mead plastic-covered notebook for a long time. Once I found Bullet Journal, I upgraded to a Moleskine. But first, what is Bullet Journal?
According to the creator, Bullet Journal is an analog system for the digital age described as a way to help you organize the present, record the past and plan for the future. It was designed and continues to be tweaked by fellow New Yorker Ryder Carroll, who recently wrote the book “The Bullet Journal Method.”
Bullet Journal has done for my paper journal and task list what D-A-F-T has done for my email and inbox — just a simple and effective way to get and keep it all organized. The fact that it only takes two minutes to learn the entire Bullet Journal system is an extra special bonus!
Once you get the hang of Bullet Journal, like me, you will undoubtedly adjust it to your work style. I have made some rather significant modifications to the system over time, which I share in my monthly live workshop, “Getting Business Done.”
Between D-A-F-T and my tweaks to the Bullet Journal process, all of my paper and digital docs — plus my calendar, to-dos and notes — are completely organized. I spend virtually no time at all figuring out what I need to be doing or where I’ve spent my time. Administratively speaking, it doesn’t get much more efficient than that!
Now, keep a lookout for the last installment of this series, which is all about websites: hosting, posting and getting paid.
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